Salem Goes With Ex-Univision Leader To Helm Miami AMs


MIAMI — She’s well-known across El Gran Miami for her experience with Univision Radio and even has served as Marketing Research Director for Cisneros Television Group.

Soon, she’ll step into the newly created role of VP/GM for Salem Media Group‘s soon-to-be-acquired AM radio stations in Miami. They’ll compete against the likes of her former employer’s AMs on target for purchase by Latino Media Network, in addition to Spanish-language spoken word leader Actualidad Radio and conservative-leading “Caracol 1260” in a crowded marketplace.

Taking the post at Salem is Monica Rabassa. 

Rabassa has served for the past five years as VP of Marketing, Promotions and Operations for TelevisaUnivision’s radio stations in Miami, comprised of heritage News/Talk WAQI “Radio Mambí,” “TUDN”-aligned Sports Talker WQBA-AM, Latin Adult Contemporary WAMR “Amor 107.5,” and Latin Hot Adult Contemporary WRTO “MIX 98.3.”

She’s shifting to Salem from a tenure at what is today TelevisaUnivision that also saw her largely handling marketing, corporate communications, and public affairs for Univision Communications, prior to its merger with Televisa.

Rabassa, who is a 1983 Harvard University graduate with a B.A. in Economics, has been honored as one of the “Most Influential Women in Radio” by Radio Ink magazine (2015 through 2020) and as a “Marketer of the Year” with the prestigious Medallas de Cortez award, in 2015.

Rabassa reports directly to Salem Media Group SVP Allen Power, who commented, “As we prepared to return to the Miami market with a new vision, we sought a leader with knowledge of the market and a shared passion for that vision. Monica’s track record in Spanish-language audio across multiple markets and her deep understanding of the South Florida communities are evidence that she possesses both. We’re excited to have her join us to lead our team in making a positive difference in South Florida.”

Rabassa added, “I’m thrilled to join Salem Media Group as the General Manager of its Miami properties. It is an honor to be part of Salem’s vision to offer high quality, unique and insightful programming to Spanish-language audiences and advertisers.”

Salem Media Group reshaped its South Florida presence in October with the filing two days apart of asset purchase agreements signaling its intent to take on Latino Media Network, which has been accused by conservatives in the Miami Hispanic community of planning a change in the programming of “Radio Mambí,” the storied anti-Castro Talker at 710 kHz that is perpetually jammed by CMBA-AM in La Julia, Cuba, a key source of “Radio Rebelde.”

How did this rumor take hold, despite assurances from LMN co-founder Stephanie Valencia that such talk is rubbish, and that any change in direction for the long-running station would be foolish? The $60 million deal approved in late November by the FCC triggered a spirited protest movement in Miami, as LMN secured debt financing for the acquisition from an investment entity affiliated with Soros Fund Management LLC. Given George Soros’ political leanings, conservatives were furious that changes to longtime anti-Castro Spanish-language Talker “Radio Mambí” were inevitable. As such, efforts to thwart regulatory approval of the transaction were engaged.

That didn’t stop many Radio Mambí staff members to depart ahead of the change in control, which Rabassa has now done.

Lourdes Ubieta in July 2022 quit “Radio Mambí” in Miami and is now with Americano Media — heard on Audacy Corp.’s WAXY-AM 790 under the “Radio Libre” brand. Former “Radio Mambí” hosts Nelson Rubio and Dania Alexandrino also joined Americano Media, which had been heard on Sirius XM until the WAXY launch two months ago. So far, Nielsen Audio ratings show Americano Media lagging its competitors.

While the three hosts were in the process of transitioning to new on-air homes in Miami, Coral Gables-based internal medicine specialist Dr. Pedro Roig became so distraught over the pending sale of “Radio Mambí,” of which he is an avid listener, that he moved forward with filing a Petition to Deny on August 11. Why? Roig asserted that the asset purchase agreement governing this transaction states that the parties will execute at closing one or more local marketing agreements (LMA), which he states is “non-standard” compared to pre-closing LMAs.

In response, Audio Division Chief Albert Shuldiner ruled Roig’s petition was procedurally defective. Shuldiner also dismissed LMA claims raised by Dr. Roig, noting the applicants amended the applications on October 27 to include a joint certification that Univision has waived the closing condition that required LMN to enter into an LMA.

With drama building against LMN, a telenovela-style tale of its own ebbed at WSUA-AM “Caracol 1260” in Miami, with the failure by Marcell Felipe and Carlos Vasallo to purchase the station and use it — as Hispanic Democrats in Florida assailed — as a Spanish-language vessel of the Republican Party.

Today, as Salem and Rabassa ready their forthcoming Hispanic-targeted radio cluster, Fútbol de Primera coverage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which concludes Sunday at 10am Eastern, has propelled WURN-AM, the Actualidad Media Group flagship to the top spot among all AMs in Miami-Fort Lauderdale.

That said, WAQI “Radio Mambí” is right below WURN among all listeners, and both “Caracol” and “Americano” are each far behind.

What will the future hold? That’s yet to be decided as Salem is acquiring from Actualidad WMYM-AM 990 and its translator at 98.7 MHz — W254DT in Miami, ending its “Unanimo Sports” affiliation; and arranged a $5 million deal that will see it acquire WWFE-AM 670 “La Poderosa” and FM translator W276DV at 103.1 MHz and WRHC-AM 1550 and its FM translator W254DV at 98.7 MHz.

The WWFE and WRHC acquisition was prompted by the recent passing of Fenix Broadcasting President and Founder Jorge Rodriguez Sr.

“Salem is beginning a new chapter in Miami as we expand our conservative and family themed programming to the Spanish-language audience,” said Ed Atsinger, the company’s Executive Chairman. “Miami is an obvious market for this expansion, and we’re excited to add great signals like WMYM and FM 98.7 to our portfolio.”

Closing of the transactions is expected to occur within the next 30-45 days, at which time Rabassa will set her sights on making Salem’s Miami trio of AMs some of Hispanic South Florida’s most-listened-to spoken word properties.

It’s a much different approach to serving South Florida than what Salem had nine years ago. In November 2013, the company today led by Dave Santrella created a quartet through the acquisition of the former WOCN-AM (today WKAT). It joined WZAB-AM 880, today a Black Information Network O&O under iHeartMedia ownership; Salem had sold it to Relevant Radio’s Immaculate Heart Media in 2019 for $9 million.

In September 2020, Salem sold what had been its last property in Miami, WOCN-AM at 1450 kHz, to Haitian broadcaster Radio Piment Bouk for $3.5 million.

Then, there is the “original” WKAT, which today is WQVN-AM 1360. That AM was spun by Salem in December 2017, also for $3.5 million.

That transaction saw a call letter swap that sent the WKAT calls to its second of three homes, then-WHIM-AM 1080. That incarnation of WKAT was spun to Relevant Radio along with what was WZAB. Today those stations are WQOS and WXBN, respectively.

Rabassa is married to Dr. Gustavo León and has two children.